Rapturous Realizations

Don't dismiss 'Left Behind' as ineffective scare tactics. Tim LaHaye's novels brought Ida Bailey to Christ

BY: Ida Bailey

 

I recently caused a stir at my church's book group by divulging a secret about me and "Left Behind." Once a month, a dozen of us meet and discuss a book with "spiritual import": We've read books by evangelical mystic A.W. Tozer, memoirist and children's writer Madeline L'Engle, and a biography of Teresa of Avila. We've read Jan Karon's "At Home in Mitford," and a new novel called "Grace at Bender Springs." We try to alternate fiction and nonfiction.

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Last month, our book was "Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory," an investigation of America's evangelical subculture, which meant the next month was slated for fiction. As our discussion of "Mine Eyes" wrapped up, we began to debate what to read for next month. This is usually a pretty easy conversation: We each take turns suggesting a book, and unless almost everyone else has already read it, that's the book we read.

This week, Dara suggested we read "Tribulation Force," the second novel in the "Left Behind" series. Surely a reasonable book to suggest since it is one of the most influential Christian books of our day. It's not great literature, but then, neither are the Mitford books.

But there was an uproar. "I really don't think that's the best book for us to read," said Camilla. "In fact, if that's the book we pick, I think I'll probably stay home next month."

Terri echoed the sentiment: "Yeah, agreeing to read that book would be signaling our approval of it, and I just can't approve of the "Left Behind" books."

"But we often read books we don't agree with," protested a perplexed Dara.

"We may read books we disagree with," replied Terri, "but we don't read things that are absolutely beyond the pale. We wouldn't read something

heretical,

or Wiccan, or a book by Jack Spong."

But the "Left Behind" novels are hardly Spong-like heresy, I thought. Tim LaHaye, one of the authors of the series, has been an evangelical leader for decades. Sure, some people have said that the novels' vision of the End Times is off-base--but Christians have been arguing for centuries about whether the millennium will proceed or follow Christ's return to Earth. So why were some of the women in my book group getting so bent out of shape about the "Left Behind" novels?

Not, it turned out, because they were sticklers about the End Times, but because they were sticklers about evangelism.

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